By: Janel Spiegel and Joe Scrizzi
Leiser’s Rental Barn
Interview with Rob Leiser
2212 Sullivan Trail, Easton, PA 18040
Forks Township, PA
In life sometimes you wind up at places you don’t expect to wind up at. I was invited by my fellow The Valley Ledger contributor and friend, Joe Scrizzi to the Rental Barn, Leiser’s Rental Barn for a photoshoot. It’s one of my favorite places of all-time. It’s such a unique place. Leiser’s has been in business for 74 years. Joe Scrizzi and myself interviewed the owner, Rob Leiser who is full of surprises, the man is a good soul, a hard worker and always working. There are so many fascinating aspects about this place. The barn alone is beautiful.
Spiegel– I was looking at the website and it says you have been for business for thirty-seven years but doing this for fifty-five years. I’ve been here to visit for photoshoots coordinated by Joe Scrizzi. This place is beyond incredible. It’s fascinating and steeped in so much history. How did you get started and why did you decide to do this?
Rob Leiser– Well, how I got started? The original store was next to where Stefano’s is in Bethlehem. We lived about a half a mile away and in 1963 my father was working on a house behind the business. We moved into the finished house in 1963 and the business was right there. That’s where I hung out, and I found some sort of interest in mechanical things because I wound up in the junk pile that was in the basement. I was put on the payroll in 1968 and I’ve worked ever since.
Scrizzi– So in 1968, how old were you then?
Rob Leiser– I think 14.
Scrizzi– So, your father had the business?
Rob Leiser- Yes, he started the business. He got out of the Army; he was in flight training to be a fighter pilot. He loved airplanes so, he went to aeronautical school in Oklahoma. He got a short degree in airport management, and he came back to the Lehigh Valley and he found out that the airport already had a manager. So, nobody else was hiring. The steel company and Mack Truck was trying to retool from war production to consumer production so, there was a lot of young men in the Lehigh Valley out of work. My grandfather was a nurseryman, my grandfather was the head gardener for one of the vice presidents at Bethlehem Steel. So, my father had somewhat of an agriculture background. He started doing handyman work, and a lot of that was garden-related. He got a brand of chainsaws and he started selling chainsaws. Then he got into lawnmowers and doing lawns, and that was the product that he found he could grow from.
Spiegel– Did your father enjoy fixing everything or did he fix stuff?
Rob Leiser– He understood it but he didn’t necessarily do a lot of it. I learned a lot from the other mechanics in the shop.
Spiegel– What made you open Leiser’s Rental Barn here in Easton or Forks Township?
Rob Leiser– There is a blog on the history of this, and this is where it gets weird. One of my graduation gifts was this toolbox, and a moose hunt. (Rob shows us the toolbox.) I graduated high school in 1973 so I got the tool box and went to work. I was doing a lot. At one point I ended up working in one of the three stores. We’ll go back to Stefano’s in Bethlehem. It’s a house with an addition put on the back. The first rental store was started there. My father knocked out some walls and started the rental store in the house. He bought this farm as an investment, and at some point, I was told that I’m coming here to turn this farm into a rental store.
Spiegel– You have such a powerful work ethic.
Rob Leiser– This is the only thing I know. It’s just the way I grew up. I do enjoy it. It was always hard work but I still enjoyed getting out of bed and going to work every day. I’ve never been able to take a two-week vacation. I have a lot of work to do though.
Scrizzi– Did you ever want to do anything else in life?
Rob Leiser– Barbara always asks me that. This is what I was supposed to do. This is what my family groomed me for.
Spiegel– You have a few awesome hobbies. How did they start?
Rob Leiser– I buy things at auctions.
Scrizzi– Yes, it’s nice when you have a barn.
Rob Leiser– I ended up at Cedar Brook one time and we rented wheelchairs occasionally. I found a wheelchair there. I had this idea that I could use wheelchair wheels. The first year we got there, my car won every single race. The orange car which is upstairs in the barn, we call that the Mario Andretti car. I wanted to try and make this car look like the car that Mario Andretti won the 1969 Indianapolis 500 with. I went looking for his original car. I ended up at a hand cycle race in Indianapolis and went to Indianapolis Motorsports Museum, and they have a copy of his original car and I found out what I was building was very close to his original car was. I’m not an artist but I did the numbers, the colors, and the shape. Mario Andretti would never see it, normally. He was in town for a funeral and he got to see my car.
Scrizzi– Did you know Mario was going to be there?
Rob Leiser– I found out like the night before.
Scrizzi– Did you know Mario before that?
Rob Leiser– I knew Mario’s father a lot more, and his father was one of our customers. Anyhow, we had a talk about the car, and I found out a lot of background information about Mario’s car.
Scrizzi– One of your other extracurricular activities is hand-cycling?
Rob Leiser– I was a long-distance bicycle rider, that’s how I cleared my head. I started having hip problems and I stumbled across the hand cycle on a street in Utah. I thought, I think I can ride that. I ended up poking around and I ended up sending some money to a guy in Wisconsin and that’s how I got started. When you’re a mechanic for fifty-five years. You want things to work out well. The first year I didn’t go, I went up and previewed the course. I said, I think I need another year of training.
Spiegel– I thank you so much Rob for taking the time to talk with The Valley Ledger.
Scrizzi– Thank you Rob.
MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE RENTAL BARN.